Sudoku is a global, popular puzzle game, in large part because of its simplicity. All you need in order to play is some grids, some numbers, and a pencil. For many, a Sudoku puzzle book is a way to pass the time. It’s an added bonus that it’s good for your brain.
It’s become popular to use “brain workouts” to tackle cognitive decline. But there are other ways of delaying mental decline. Current studies have demonstrated that hearing aids might be able to provide your brain with a little boost in mental activation, reducing the advancement of mental decline.
Cognitive Decline, What is it?
Your brain has a truly use-it-or-lose-it disposition. Without stimulus, neural pathways will fizzle. That’s why Sudoku has a tendency to keep you mentally active: it causes your brain to think, to creatively forge and strengthen a plethora of neural pathways.
While some mental decline is a normal process associated with aging, there are some things that can accelerate or exacerbate that decline. Hearing loss, for example, can introduce a really potent risk for your mental health. When your hearing starts to decline, two things occur that powerfully affect your brain:
- You hear less: When you have less sound input, your auditory cortex (the region of your brain responsible for all things hearing-related) receives diminished stimulation. Your brain might end up changing in a way that causes it to prioritize other senses like sight. These changes have been connected to a higher danger of cognitive decline.
- You go out less: Untreated hearing loss can cause some individuals to self-isolate in a detrimental way. Staying home to avoid conversations might seem simpler than going out and feeling self-conscious (especially as your neglected hearing loss progresses). This can rob your brain of even more stimulation.
These two factors, when combined, can cause your brain to change in major ways. Memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and ultimately a higher danger of dementia have been related to this kind of cognitive decline.
Is Mental Decline Reversable With Hearing Aids?
So, this mental decline occurs because your hearing loss is being neglected. And it’s pretty clear what needs to be done to reverse these declines: have your hearing impairment treated. For most people with hearing loss, that means a brand new pair of properly-calibrated hearing aids.
The degree to which hearing aids can slow cognitive decline is both surprising and well-corroborated. Researchers at the University of Melbourne surveyed about 100 adults between the ages of 62-82, all of whom had some form of hearing loss. Over 97% of those adults who used their hearing aids for at least 18 months revealed a stabilization or even reversal of that cognitive decline.
Just using hearing aids resulted in a nearly universal improvement. That tells us a couple of things:
- One of the main functions of hearing aids is to keep you in your social circle. And your brain remains more engaged when you stay social. When you can follow conversations it’s much more enjoyable to talk with your friends.
- Finding ways to keep your auditory cortex active would be advantageous because stimulation is the key to mental well being. As long as you continue to hear (with the assistance of hearing aids), this essential area of your brain will continue to be stimulated, active, and healthy.
Sudoko is Still a Smart Idea
The University of Melbourne study isn’t the only one of it’s kind. If you have untreated hearing loss, countless studies have demonstrated that using hearing aids can help decrease mental decline. The issue is that not everyone knows that they have hearing loss. The symptoms can sneak up on you. So if you’re feeling strained, forgetful, or even a little spacier than usual, it may be worth checking with your hearing specialist.
That hearing aids are so effective doesn’t necessarily mean you should give up on your Sudoku or other brain games. Keeping your brain agile and engaged in a number of different ways can help broaden the overall cognitive strength of your executive functions. Both hearing aids and Sudoku can help you work out your brain and keep yourself cognitively fit.